A fit squad is vital, but expect changes says Derek McInnes
Manager Derek McInnes believes Bristol City can start to climb the Championship table now that key players are returning from injury.
Left-back Greg Cunningham, midfielder Cole Skuse and experienced striker Jon Stead have all returned to action this month following long lay-offs, while defenders Lewin Nyatanga and Louis Carey, winger Martyn Woolford and veteran midfield schemer Jody Morris are all waiting in the wings should they be needed during the hectic Christmas and New Year period.
Cunningham, Skuse and Stead are key performers and all three played a big part in last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Ipswich.
McInnes will now be hoping the trio can recover in time to be able to face Watford at Ashton Gate on Boxing Day.
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He acknowledged: "Greg, Cole and Jon are big players for me and it is good to finally have them back.
"They are key players and I would like to think we will be okay with them back in the team."
Cunningham was sorely missed while recuperating from damaged ankle ligaments between September and December and his return to first-team duty has been particularly welcome.
McInnes confirmed: "Greg was a massive player for me at the start of the season. We worked hard to get him, brought him through the door and watched him fulfil all our hard work with some outstanding performances.
"We were really keen to get him back and he will be all the better for having played a couple of games."
In an ideal world, McInnes would like to deploy Cunningham, Skuse and Stead in his starting line-up against Watford.
But City face three games in a week and the Scot is mindful of not pushing recently-returned players too hard.
He said: "What we have to be conscious of is the quantity of games, because Greg, Skuse and Stead have not had a lot of games of late.
"There was always concern on a heavy pitch (at Ipswich) that those boys would not see out the 90 minutes. But credit to them and all the hard work they have put in behind the scenes.
"Our staff have also worked hard to get them to a level of fitness where they can perform like that and the players have been very professional."
Although City put in a decent performance at Portman Road on Saturday and should have won the game, McInnes is likely to make some changes against the Hornets.
He said: "We are conscious of the fact there are a few players who have not had a lot of football of late, so we will have to manage the squad and tinker with the team here and there.
"It is important we make sure everyone can be at their maximum in the next three games, which come in a short space of time.
"You need a strong squad to cope with the volume of games and we've had a few come back from injury.
"Physically, it would be difficult for them to play every game, because the Championship is a very demanding league.
"We have to make sure they can put the work=rate into every game and, for that to happen, a freshness will be needed."
Striker Ryan Taylor is expected to recover from the hamstring strain that ruled him out of the Ipswich game in time to be considered, but centre-back Danny Wilson (hamstring) is a major doubt.